Washougal teachers ratify new contract

One-year pact increases compensation, development funds

By Adam Littman, Columbian Staff Writer

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The Washougal teachers union ratified a new contract for the 2017-2018 school year after taking a vote Wednesday night.

The Washougal Association of Educators was voting to ratify a contract agreed upon by association leaders and the Washougal School District after a four-hour bargaining session on Sept. 14.

This was the second tentative agreement between the Washougal Association of Educators and Washougal School District. The first agreement between the two sides was voted down by the teachers union on Sept. 6. To ratify the new labor contract, the association needed 60 percent of the nearly 200 members to approve it.

The contract voted on by the teachers increases time, responsibility and incentive compensation, or TRI pay. The new TRI pay compensation rate is 18.4 percent, up from 14 percent in the 2016-2017 school year, according to a release from the school district. In the new deal, teachers will be compensated for 193 hours of work beyond the regular school day, including 170 hours of teacher-directed work and 23 hours of district-directed work.

Each certified employee will receive an annual professional development stipend for $1,000, increased from $730, as well as a one-time professional development stipend of $700 for the 2017-2018 school year.

“The district team’s charge was to balance fair compensation for their employees with long-term budget stability,” the release from the district read. “The compensation package provides Washougal School District teachers with competitive and comparable compensation with like-sized school districts.”

Frank Zahn, association president, said he was pleased that the association increased compensation and professional development funds. Zahn said he couldn’t give out details of how the vote went other than to say it passed, but the new deal didn’t receive unanimous support.

“Some people did not like the tentative agreement, but it gives us focus on moving forward for our next contract,” he said.

The two sides will meet back at the bargaining table again later this school year, as the new contract is a one-year deal. Zahn said the association hopes to use this contract as a stepping stone to get closer to where they want to be.

He said the teachers don’t feel fairly compensated when compared to neighboring school districts, and they will focus on compensation and insurance compensation in future bargaining.

Another big issue in current bargaining was combination classrooms, where one teacher has students across multiple grades in the same class. The new contract provides support for teachers should they have a combined class, where they will receive a choice of support, including paraprofessional help and additional planning time.

“The district is appreciative of the dedicated and caring teachers who serve the children of Washougal each day,” the district’s release read. “The district is pleased to reach this agreement and provide for stability of staffing and funding.”

Zahn was also pleased with how bargaining went, and how it can impact the future for Washougal teachers.

“Our local is more highly involved than they have ever been,” Zahn said. “These people truly care about teaching children, and they understand that their own professional considerations are very much tied to their students’ achievements.”